[UPDATE] The Aural Archive, ACLA, April 1-4, 2010, New Orleans (11/23/09)

full name / name of organization: 
Michael Cohen, Louisiana State University; Sarah J. Townsend, New York University

"The Aural Archive"

ACLA annual convention, New Orleans, April 1-4, 2010

Proposals due: Nov. 23, 2009 [Deadline extended]

This seminar aims to draw out several theoretical and methodological questions lurking behind recent work in media studies, performance studies, musicology, and literary studies: If the aural realm is ephemeral (as is often said), how does it factor into the historical record? When you listen to your archive, what and how do you hear? And how do you theorize the silences and noises in the archival grain?

Efforts to reconstruct the sonic and vocal worlds of the past are often tinged with the pathos of loss, the "lost sounds" of an impoverished archive devoid of those voices that did not command the technologies of writing. Studies of oral cultures, historical performance, theater, music, or early radio are structured by the gaps in the written record, and by the writtenness of the record. On the other hand, sounds captured on wax cylinders, film, magnetic tape, vinyl or digital encoding are not necessarily more immediately present: complex histories of circulation, mediation, reception, and power lie between us and the sounds of the past.

We hope to begin a discussion on the problems and promises of the aural archive with scholars from a range of disciplines and fields. For those working in periods before recorded sound, how do you negotiate printed records to reconstruct sensory experiences of voice and ear? For scholars working on twentieth and twenty-first-century materials, how do you historicize the acts of listening to sound recordings, radio, film, television, etc.? What might a focus on aurality allow us to add to the ever-expanding discourse surrounding "the archive"?

Submit paper proposals online via the ACLA 2010 website:


[Select "The Aural Archive" as the seminar]

For more information about the seminar, contact:

Michael Cohen, LSU: mcohen@lsu.edu
Sarah J. Townsend, NYU: sjt239@nyu.edu

For more information about the conference, see: